Unpacking Expectations

Unpacking Expectations

We’re moving from last week’s Distractions like ants, to Expectations like bugs. Certain expectations are healthy and beneficial just like some bugs are harmless and good, like the lady-bug in gardens, but others we want no part of.  You’d be astounded what a huge role expectation of blame/credit/upset play in adjusting to relationships at home, the neighborhood, clubs or in the workplace.

Like bugs, expectations—whether subtle, unspoken, imagined, or expressed— wield almost unbelievable influence on communication and life itself. Identifying the various categories is a necessary first step toward building and maintaining healthy self-esteem in our communities. If we did a word-association test on expectations, the responses would range from positive to strongly negative.  Excerpt: Chapter 4 How to Get Along with Everyone (Nurturing Faith.net) which offers details and examples of Expectations.

When clients are asked to name expectations that they put on themselves or some that others thrust upon them, either verbally or silently their responses take a while.  But when asked to use sentences with the word expect, there’s a deluge. “I didn’t expect that of you,” “What do you expect me to do or say? I expected you to call long before now,” “I certainly expected them to at least pick up the tip”, “Your expectations exceed my abilities”, “My family expects me to be in charge all the time.”  “I had no idea you expected that of me.” “You didn’t expect me to ask, did you?”, “I expect a lecture from you.” etc. Also, engaging in a game of listening for the word expect at a get-together or planned party is not only quite amusing but beneficial.

Personal unexpressed expectations loomed when Jim and I were definitely an ‘item’ the summer before our last year at Moody Bible Institute.  In those days, the man asked for dates and proposed marriage; the gal was socially obliged to wait patiently for their guy to gain courage. I was expecting to be asked any day, but spending our summer apart—I with mission work in Ohio and Jim driving truck for his uncle in Texas—our weekly letters limited communication. Obviously, letter-writing was not Jim’s favorite pastime. However, late in July a two-pager arrived containing a proposal to attend a conference.

“When will your mission work end?” He wrote, “I would like us to attend a Bible conference mid-August in Colorado. Do you think you could find a ride? I have made reservations. After that, we would drive to Odessa so you could meet my parents and spend a week. They want to drive us back to Chicago.”  What an exciting proposition.  Mission work would be over and I was fortunate to find a ride with a couple from New York who were scheduled to attend the same conference, who treated me like one of their children.

We were so happy to see each other. Every morning we met for breakfast attended sessions but skipped some afternoon recreation so that we could tour the area. At each awesome site—like The Garden of the Gods, springs and waterfalls I would surmise, “This would be a nice setting for a proposal.”  But Jim didn’t broach the subject.

One evening while we were sitting on a bench before the evening session, the Director of the conference who was passing by paused and asked, “Are you two married?”  We were a bit embarrassed by his question but said “no”. Evidently, it was no secret to onlookers that we were madly in love.

With one day left to tour, Jim suggested “Let’s meet at 4 am and drive up to Pike’s Peak”. The view was spectacular. I wondered if this, indeed, was the setting he’d been waiting for. We hugged and confirmed our love for each other, but that was it. I was almost weak from anticipation.

The drive to his home the next day was enjoyable. We never tired of being together.  Upon our arrival, his uncle called to inform him that he needed to deliver a load of propane to Dell City. “It’s a very long trip”, Jim explained, “but I’d like you to go with me.”  We left immediately. I had never ridden in a tanker truck and was impressed that Jim could drive one. By the time we arrived at the unloading dock in the middle of nowhere, it was pitch dark. Since no city lights were visible, I commented on the number and brilliance of the stars, which moved Jim to sing “The stars at night are big and bright (clap, clap, clap, clap) Deep in the heart of Texas.”  Under these gorgeous stars would be a wonderful setting, I thought. We hugged and kissed, but the question I expected and wanted to answer was never uttered.

The next evening, as we sat on the back steps of their home to be alone, the hot wind was blowing sand; no waterfalls, or great expansive scene over mountains or gorgeous stars, but that’s where Jim chose to ask “Will you marry me?” My expectation was not only fulfilled but unbeknown to me was an awaiting unanticipated surprise.

The next day, our last, Jim said “Let’s run to town.”  Of all places, we walked into a jewelry store where the proprietor said “Hello, Mr. Ward, I know what you’re after; I’ll be right back.” Jim had paid down on a ring earlier in the summer. The jeweler sized it and Jim placed it on my left hand. I couldn’t have been more surprised and overjoyed. All through our 65 years together, Jim’s creative, yet simple, surprises gifted me with special enjoyment at the time and are providing deep, delightful memories in his absence.

I have wondered since whether I should have disclosed my expectations early on while we were in Colorado. He had no idea what I was experiencing.  I’m the romantic dreamer; Jim was sensing and practical and had decided what and when, so he wasn’t reticent but just time-structured. The concept that I learned was how strongly lingering expectations can fill one’s mind.

Everyone, whether they will admit it or not, places unspoken expectations on others who have or can do what they want. Resentment (cancer of the heart, I call it) seeps in when expectations are not fulfilled. That is why it’s wise to inquire about specific expectations that you have on others or unspoken expectations that they might have placed on you. Telling a child “I expect (or I like the word want) you to put your toys in the box” not only prompts but proves that you will be pleased by his/her actions.

Many newly married couples contend with parental expectations: “But we expect you to be here on Thanksgiving”, etc.  Some parents assume/expect that their children will always live close by; be home for major holidays, birthdays and share vacations, just as they expect their offspring to find employment and support themselves, and the list goes on and on. You can fill in the blanks.

Self-Imposed expectations unnecessarily cripple many. Nearly everyone says at one time or another, “I should do or be this or that.” Self-imposed expectations are helpful when they involve such goals as planning a career, pursuing an education, learning a job, getting up for work, studying for a test, finishing a project, or taking care of children or possessions. Unfortunately, many people spend their lives correcting mistakes or enslaved to appetites that require tremendous financial support.

Placing expectations on ourselves is a great motivator in reaching attainable goals; reaching those goals demands consistent discipline--a tough assignment for everyone. Sensing people prefer to know what’s expected of them which then motivates them to take care of repetitive chores. Intuitives, who are easily bored prefer new challenges and handle requirements in the process.  Arriving at a balanced life requires that we intentionally unpack the array of expectations that we all deal with every day. Courageously and wisely challenge any assumed, unknown or spoken expectation. Unclutter your mind and heart.

Inquirers have asked a good question, “What does God expect of us?” “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  Micah 6: 8                                                                                                   You have searched me Lord, and you know me... Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely you hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon on me... Search me, God, and know my heart.   Ps 139:1,4,5, 23